Family solicitors reported a surge in divorce enquiries before Christmas and have predicted that the number of divorces will rocket in 2010, with January likely to be the busiest month.The rush comes as London firm Lloyd Platt & Co markets a new ‘divorce voucher’ scheme for separating couples.Mark Keenan, managing director of Divorce Online, said he saw a 30% increase in new clients in December, which was ‘unusual’. He predicts that the divorce rate will increase by 2% this year due to the recession, which has put added pressure on struggling couples.Keenan said his company fielded enquiries from more than 100 couples on 4 January, the first working day after the New Year, which has become known as ‘Divorce Day’.‘The rise in property prices may have an impact on divorce rates as couples who have decided to separate feel more confident about selling their homes and splitting their equity,’ he said.Craig Holt, chief executive at solicitors marketing organisation QualitySolicitors.com, said his member firms were ‘bracing themselves’ for double the usual monthly volume of enquiries, and predicted a 23% rise in work on this time last year.He said the period after Christmas was traditionally the busiest time of year for divorce solicitors, but added: ‘We expect unparalleled levels in January as a number of people who have been holding fire now take the hard decision to seek legal advice to pursue a divorce.’Meanwhile Lloyd Platt & Co, which saw a 20-30% rise in enquires before Christmas, launched a ‘divorce voucher’ last month. The gift voucher can be used to purchase legal services at the firm and in some cases has been bought by an unhappy spouse and presented to their partner as an indication that they are seeking a divorce.Vanessa Lloyd Platt, senior partner at Lloyd Platt & Co, said the firm had sold 60 vouchers and had already made appointments for some people who had received them.‘The increase is directly referable to the property market – as that has started to move, so have people,’ said Lloyd Platt.
We have repeatedly heard that the UK has experienced its biggest overhaul of the immigration system in half a century. This claim is false. The recent changes to our immigration system are more of a repackaging. In 2010 we are at the conclusion of the five-year plan for immigration announced in 2005 by the then home secretary Charles Clarke. In a command paper, Controlling our borders: making migration work for Britain – five-year strategy for asylum and immigration, he declared that his top priority was to achieve public confidence in the immigration system and the acceptance of a points-based system (PBS) – a controversial concept. Five years on, where are we? The PBS was heralded by the ousted Labour government as ‘a simple, transparent, objective, robust, Australian-type immigration system designed to attract those migrants the UK needs’. Has it done its job? The last government certainly thought so, having introduced robust controls and penalties, while reducing the number of routes available for overseas nationals to enter the UK from over 80 categories into five tiers. There have certainly been many changes, but whether there has been an ‘overhaul’ of the system is questionable. The changes have included:Unbeknown to many angry British voters, the PBS has certainly reduced the numbers of migrants, skilled and otherwise, qualified to enter the UK, and increased the number of applications being refused on ‘technical’ grounds. The PBS has also resulted in:the removal of subjectivity from the immigration decision-making process;a requirement for applicants to speak English to an advanced standard; an enhanced requirement for an applicant to show he can maintain himself and any family in the UK;the need for the applicant to produce strictly prescriptive documentation as evidence of having attained the required points; andunaccountably, the removal of appeal rights. a PBS; application decisions for leave to enter and remain being made entirely on objective criteria and only ‘on the papers’; the need for a sponsor for most applicants to enter the UK; a more comprehensive analysis of shortage occupations; a single application process; new (but not necessarily improved) technology; rigorous paper checks; biometrics; the formation of the UK Border Agency (UKBA); robust powers to strengthen the UK’s border control; and ‘overseas nationals’ being called ‘migrants’. Laura Devine, Laura Devine Solicitors, London. Sam Ray, legal assistant at Laura Devine, also contributed to this article. RobustnessThe PBS has indeed shown itself to be robust in some areas. There are arduous compliance duties for sponsors, with severe civil, criminal and financial penalties for non-compliance. But the system is not robust in filtering into the UK suitably skilled migrants. Some migrants who are not fully skilled or well qualified (having the equivalent of NVQ level 3 for tier 2), or recent masters graduates with a good level of English and a reasonable income, can enter the UK as ‘skilled’ and ‘highly skilled’ respectively. Meanwhile, others who are indeed skilled, some very highly skilled (for example, a self-employed film producer with a Sundance film award who has not earned a sufficiently high salary to attract points), cannot enter the UK under these categories. Another observation is that the PBS has, through the development of certificates of sponsorship and confirmation of acceptance, established self-certification, a concept that was tried and tested and failed in the past. Surely self-certification does not fit within a so-called ‘robust’ system. Simple and transparent The UKBA describes the PBS as simple and transparent. Indeed, former immigration minister Tony McNulty, when introducing the concept of the PBS, said he wanted a system so simple that a three-year old would understand it. It is scarcely imaginable that HM Revenue & Customs or the criminal justice system would promote systems so simplistic that they could be understood by a three-year old. UKBA staff have been known to announce to stakeholders that, because the system is so simple, sponsors do not need legal representation. The last government was adamant in its quest to ensure that all decisions regarding PBS applicants are totally objective with no element of discretion allowed. This quest for equal treatment backfired and led to unfair decisions for applicants owing to the lack of subtlety under the PBS. Further, it resulted in a category under tier 1 for highly skilled migrants where no points can be awarded for skills and very few for work experience (except for experience obtained in the UK). To assess these two significant attributes that employers want in staff would require a subjective decision, and subjectivity is an unwelcome factor within the PBS. Five tiersThe former government’s claim to have reduced 84 ways of entry into the UK to five tiers is misleading – again, the change merely constitutes a repackaging of the immigration system not an overhaul. The PBS only deals with employment, business and students. There is still a number of business categories outside the PBS, not to mention asylum, family and, indeed, human rights and European free movement. Finally, it should be noted that the five tiers within the PBS have subcategories – about 16 in general. There are in fact about 35 immigration categories. The last government was aided in its quest for a reduction in the number of migrants coming to the UK by the recently created UKBA, responsible for controlling migration in the UK, enforcing immigration and customs regulations, and considering applications for permission to enter or stay in the UK and for citizenship and asylum. As well as showing an enthusiasm for border control, UKBA has revealed a passion for discouraging its stakeholder immigration applicants from instructing solicitors. Australian systemComparing the UK’s PBS and the Australian system is not sensible or reasonable. Unlike the Australian PBS, the UK system encompasses (nearly) all the business routes within it, making it very different. The Australian employer/sponsor categories sit outside the PBS. ConclusionThe new government is anxious to be seen to be reducing the number of migrants coming to the UK. Since human rights are governed by international law, the government has limited powers here. As highlighted by David Cameron’s adversaries, another area that the government has limited (if any) control over is European free movement. Each member state of the EU can control the number and type of non-European nationals who enter its country and enact domestic immigration laws to do so, as we do in the UK. But each member state, including the UK, cannot interfere with the movement of European nationals, despite Gordon Brown’s rhetoric about protecting ‘British jobs for British workers’. This only leaves the UK government control over non-human rights claimants and non-European nationals whose entrance to the UK is controlled by the PBS and our immigration laws and rules, and policy for family reunion. The new PBS is not more effective in allowing employers to bring in the skilled migrants needed in the UK and, indeed, more easily allows for non-highly skilled migrants to enter the UK under tiers 1 and 2. All parties in the 2010 general election had immigration at the forefront of their campaigning strategy. The new coalition government is likely to limit further economic migration to the UK. They would do well first to note the effects of the PBS’s already stringent limitations on migration and understand that further substantial limitations may adversely affect businesses in the UK and inhibit economic recovery. The government’s time would be better spent adapting the rigid rubric of the PBS so as to sustain economic migration numbers, but select more astutely for skills that will buoy the economy.
Dr Louise Ashley is a research fellow at the Centre for Professional Service Firms, Cass Business School, part of City University London It may come as no surprise that the legal sector has a bias towards middle-class candidates. A range of research has attributed this situation to the tendency of leading law firms to recruit graduates from those UK and international institutions with the most testing entry requirements, which themselves have a strong middle-class bias. Though the impact of this strategy on their own diversity is increasingly recognised by many firms, it is widely justified on the basis that academic ability is a prerequisite for top-flight legal practice. Unequal access to educational advantage is, therefore, an important explanation of unequal access to legal careers. However, my research over the past five years suggests this is not the only factor. Working-class candidates may also be rejected from law firms purely on the basis of how they look and sound. Again, this emphasis is considered rational by many in the profession. After all, lawyers are in the business of providing advice and in consequence it makes sense that they should be articulate – or ‘well-spoken’. Yet it appears that for many individuals within leading City firms, the ability to clearly express oneself is considered seriously compromised when it is accompanied by any accent falling far outside the middle-class (and often southern) norm. Senior practitioners often attribute responsibility for this situation to clients, who must feel able to trust their advisers. It appears that this trust is considered possible only when associated with a narrow set of cultural characteristics. Many participants in this research also tacitly acknowledged the emphasis placed on reputation management when securing the position of elite law firms. This rests on several factors, including a belief that clients experience difficulty assessing and comparing the relative quality of advice they receive. Projecting the ‘right’ image therefore becomes an important proxy measure for some firms and can lead to a perception that living up to their ‘high-class’ reputation requires that they also field teams of lawyers who are of the ‘right class’. Why does this issue matter? The trend identified here is of concern from not just a moral but also a commercial perspective. A dual rhetoric has developed. On one side are ‘traditionalists’, who believe that the costs and risks of recruiting from institutions where students are drawn from a wider range of socio-economic backgrounds are too high. However, a counter-argument is made by ‘modernists’ who have started to question the sector’s recruitment strategies. They say that current strategies are delivering a set of ‘cookie-cutter’ recruits, all with similar skills and aptitudes. They argue that graduates who have benefited from long-term educational advantage are less ‘hungry’ and perhaps at times less talented than peers who have been forced to overcome more obstacles. Others suggest that though the two traits are by no means mutually exclusive, focusing heavily on academic ability does not always deliver the most commercial lawyers. The business case for diversity is often cited but is often bogus. However, in this case perhaps the most obvious demonstration of the benefits of difference is the knowledge that many highly successful senior leaders across the sector come from less privileged backgrounds, but would not have gained entry to their firms today on the basis of their academic qualifications. At the widest scale, reducing unequal educational outcomes according to relative privilege is one means by which this issue could be addressed. Of course, law firms cannot achieve this alone. The outreach programmes many have adopted are unlikely to make a significant dent in the sector’s middle-class bias if they are not accompanied by much deeper critical reflection about what a City lawyer can look and sound like. This will take courage and is undoubtedly challenging for a still relatively conservative profession.
The founder of the controversial Solicitors from Hell website has finally admitted defeat after the High Court ordered him to remove the site from the internet. Rick Kordowski said he will bow out from what he described as a ‘campaign to expose apparent wrong-doing’ in the legal profession. The High Court yesterday ordered Kordowski to ‘cease, forthwith, to publish the website solicitorsfromhell.co.uk’. The ruling follows a Law Society court action to secure an injunction against the site. Chancery Lane had argued it needed ‘to protect its members and the best interest of the public, as the site was not a credible source of reliable information about solicitors’. Welcoming the judgment, Society chief executive Desmond Hudson commented: ‘This website has served simply as a vehicle for pursuing personal grudges and vendettas against conscientious and reputable firms and legal professionals. ‘Far from being of any help to consumers, it has been a danger. I feared the website was directing people in real need of help away from professionals best placed to assist them.’ Kordowski told the Gazette he intends to ‘leave this matter to the next generation’ and is unlikely to relaunch the site. He added: ‘It’s a sad day for freedom of speech and the court’s decision has deprived the public of a valuable warning system.’ He said he expects similar sites to spring up in its place. The website has been subject to a number of legal actions for libel and accrued around £170,000 in costs handed down by the court. The Law Society’s Hudson added: ‘If a client has a complaint about their solicitor, they should complain to the Legal Ombudsman, the body set up by the government for that purpose.’
The judge in the trial of Tottenham Hotspur manager Harry Redknapp has banned the use of Twitter from inside the courtroom. Judge Leonard ordered the ban for both the press and members of the public attending the trial of Redknapp (pictured) and former Portsmouth chairman Milan Mandaric at Southwark Crown Court. In a notice, the judge reminded the press and public that reporting restrictions were still in place through a contempt of court order. If anyone was unsure of the extent to which there are restrictions on reporting, he added, these could be raised with the judge by way of a note sent to the clerk of the court. The use of Twitter in courts was granted to members of the press in guidance issued by lord chief justice Lord Judge last month. Members of the public were told they should seek permission before being allowed to tweet from court. Redknapp and Mandaric deny charges of cheating the public revenue, with the trial expected to last for two weeks.
Ghaidan v Godin-Mendoza  3 All ER 411 applied; Ladele v London Borough of Islington  All ER (D) 148 (Dec) applied; R (on the application of Saeedi) v Secretary of State for the Home Department  All ER (D) 16 (Apr) considered; McFarlane v Relate Avon Ltd  EWCA Civ 880 considered. Hall and another v Bull and another: Court of Appeal, Civil Division (Sir Andrew Morritt, Lord Justice Hooper and Lady Justice Rafferty): 10 February 2012 James v Eastleigh Borough Council  2 All ER 607 applied; Ladele v London Borough of Islington  All ER (D) 148 (Dec) applied; Kokkinakis v Greece  ECHR 14307/88 considered; Shamoon v Chief Constable of the Royal Ulster Constabulary  2 All ER 26 considered; R (on the application of Amicus – MSF section) v Secretary of State for Trade and Industry  All ER (D) 238 (Apr) considered; R (on the application of Williamson) v Secretary of State for Education and Employment  2 All ER 1 considered; Christian Institute, Re  NIQB 66 considered; R (on the application of the Countryside Alliance) v A-G; R (on the application of Derwin) v A-G  2 All ER 95 considered; R (on the application of E) v Governing Body of JFS (Secretary of State for Children, School and Families, interested parties) (United Synagogue intervening)  1 All ER 319 considered. (2) The defendants’ rights to manifest their religious belief under article 9 of the Convention was circumscribed by the Regulations. It was clear from the terms of article 9(2) that the right to manifest one’s belief, as opposed to the right to hold it, was qualified by such limitations as were prescribed by law and were necessary in a democratic society for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others. Such rights included the claimants’ rights under the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007. If, as had been found, the defendants directly discriminated against the claimants, then the fact that they did so by way of a manifestation of their religious belief did not give rise to any incompatibility between their rights under article 9 and the claimants’ rights under the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations. Under article 14 of the Convention, to which the Regulations gave effect, if the claimants’ Convention rights were engaged, then the manifestation of the defendants’ religious beliefs could not excuse the direct discrimination of the claimants. The Regulations aimed to ensure in a commercial context equality for all regardless of sexual orientation, and that civil partnerships were treated as is marriage for the purposes of the provision of goods, facilities and services. No individual was entitled to manifest his religious belief when and where he chose so as to obtain exemption in all circumstances from some legislative provisions of general application (see , , - of the judgment). The defendants were hoteliers. They were devoutly religious. They believed that monogamous heterosexual marriage was the form of partnership uniquely intended for full sexual relations, and that both homosexual sexual relations and heterosexual sexual relations outside marriage were sinful. For that reason, they offered double-bedded rooms to married couples only, while they let single bedrooms without any restriction. In September 2008, they refused to honour a reservation made by the claimants for a double-bedded room. The claimants subsequently brought a claim for discrimination. The judge held that the restriction operated by the defendants, of refusing double-bedded rooms to homosexual couples, constituted direct discrimination, and ordered the defendants to pay damages of £1,800 for each claimant. The judge also found that the restriction was a genuine manifestation of the defendants’ religious beliefs. The defendants appealed. The issues were whether: (i) the restriction imposed by the defendants had been direct and/or indirect discrimination; and (ii) if there had been discrimination, that restriction had nonetheless been compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights as being a result of the exercise of the defendants’ own rights to manifest their religion. Consideration was given to the Equality Act 2006 and to the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007, SI 2007/1263 (the Regulations). The appeal would be dismissed. (1) Although the defendants applied the restriction to unmarried heterosexual, as well as homosexual couples, it was still direct discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation. The reason for this was straightforward. The restriction imposed by the defendants was absolute in relation to homosexual couples but relative in relation to heterosexual couples, simply because, while the latter might be married, the former could never be. The restriction was one with which a homosexual couple was unable to comply. In those circumstances, it had to constitute discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation. Such discrimination was direct. Accordingly, there no was need to ask whether there had been indirect discrimination (see -,  of the judgment). Defendants running hotel – Defendants having strong religious beliefs Per curiam: ‘Whilst the appellants’ beliefs about sexual practice may not find the acceptance that once they did, nevertheless a democratic society must ensure that their espousal and expression remain open to those who hold them. It would be unfortunate to replace legal oppression of one community (homosexual couples) with legal oppression of another (those sharing the appellants’ beliefs); rather there should be achieved respect for the broad protection granted to religious freedom as underlined in Kokkinakis v Greece ( ECHR 14307/88). ‘Any interference with religious rights, specifically identified in article 9 and listed in article 14 of the Convention, must satisfy the test of “anxious scrutiny”. However, in a pluralist society it is inevitable that from time to time, as here, views, beliefs and rights of some are not compatible with those of others. As I have made plain, I do not consider that the appellants face any difficulty in manifesting their religious beliefs, they are merely prohibited from so doing in the commercial context they have chosen. ‘The Court of Appeal, Civil Division, in dismissing the defendant hoteliers’ appeal against the judge’s decision that their policy of refusing to let double-bedded rooms to unmarried heterosexual couples or homosexual couples was directly discriminatory against homosexuals, held that the finding of direct discrimination was utterly sound, and that the defendants’ rights to manifest their religion was limited by the claimants’ right to freedom from discrimination on grounds of their sexual orientation’ (see  of the judgment). Robin Allen QC and Catherine Casserley (instructed by Equality and Human Rights Commission) for the claimants; James Dingemans QC and Sarah Crowther (instructed by Aughton Ainsworth) for the defendants.
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Stay at the forefront of thought leadership with news and analysis from award-winning journalists. Enjoy company features, CEO interviews, architectural reviews, technical project know-how and the latest innovations.Limited access to building.co.ukBreaking industry news as it happensBreaking, daily and weekly e-newsletters Subscribe to Building today and you will benefit from:Unlimited access to all stories including expert analysis and comment from industry leadersOur league tables, cost models and economics dataOur online archive of over 10,000 articlesBuilding magazine digital editionsBuilding magazine print editionsPrinted/digital supplementsSubscribe now for unlimited access.View our subscription options and join our community Subscribe now for unlimited access Get your free guest access SIGN UP TODAY To continue enjoying Building.co.uk, sign up for free guest accessExisting subscriber? LOGIN
Get your free guest access SIGN UP TODAY Subscribe now for unlimited access To continue enjoying Building.co.uk, sign up for free guest accessExisting subscriber? LOGIN Stay at the forefront of thought leadership with news and analysis from award-winning journalists. Enjoy company features, CEO interviews, architectural reviews, technical project know-how and the latest innovations.Limited access to building.co.ukBreaking industry news as it happensBreaking, daily and weekly e-newsletters Subscribe to Building today and you will benefit from:Unlimited access to all stories including expert analysis and comment from industry leadersOur league tables, cost models and economics dataOur online archive of over 10,000 articlesBuilding magazine digital editionsBuilding magazine print editionsPrinted/digital supplementsSubscribe now for unlimited access.View our subscription options and join our community